Fantasy Baseball Prospecting for 2011: The "Experts" Are Eyeing These Pitchers

TheFantasyFix.comAnalyst ISeptember 2, 2010

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 26:  Jordan Zimmermann #27 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park on August 26, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images is proud to present Part Two of our final fantasy baseball round table of the 2010 Major League Baseball season. We asked five prominent voices in the fantasy sports industry the following question:  

As the conclusion of the 2010 Major League Baseball regular season approaches, identify one pitcher that you are keeping close tabs on in anticipation of the 2011 season. Briefly describe their 2010 season, why you are keeping tabs, and what you expect from them in the 2011 season.

Here is what the "experts" said.

Jordan Zimmermann | RHP | Washington Nationals

One of the most highly touted prospects in the minor leagues heading into the 2009 season, Jordan Zimmermann should be on your radar for 2011.

Let's look at his minor league career averages prior to his call-up in 2009 (2010 was rehab-focused on a pitch count, so not representative of his talent):

2.81 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 195.2 IP

9.9 K/9

3.1 BB/9

0.7 HR/9

Clearly, Zimmermann is a guy who gets a good number of Ks, doesn't walk too many batters, and keeps it in the park. It should come as no surprise that he had elite-caliber ratios on the way up.

Looking at his 2009 numbers, we find a pitcher who had a little bit of bad luck (.339 BABIP, 67.5 LOB percentage, 12.2 percent HR/FB) behind his disappointing 4.63 ERA. By normalizing those numbers to league averages, though, his ERA should have been closer to 3.50 than 4.60 (FIP of 3.59).

I chalk up some of his struggles, particularly in July of 2009, to the budding elbow injury that eventually shut him down until last week. During June, Zimmermann appeared to be turning the corner (8.9 K/9, 1.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP), and I believe that is a glimpse of what he can offer us in 2011.

The problem is that he had the surgery, returned about a year afterward as expected, and was promptly shelled for five ER by the Cardinals. Now, St. Louis can do that to nearly anyone, so you can't really draw much of a conclusion from that game. Regardless of the sample size, his luck was worse than ever in that game (.452 BABIP, 52.6 LOB percent, and one shiny dinger from Sir Albert Pujols himself).

The rest of 2010 will tell us a lot about Zimmermann. Can he keep the ball in the park like he did in the minors? His 43 percent GB rate suggests he will, although there are examples of GB pitchers who can't (Jorge De La Rosa, I'm talking to you). Can he continue to mow down batters post-surgery? Will his control hold up on a rebuilt elbow?

These questions are important. Stephen Strasburg is following his path, pitching well for a large part of his rookie campaign only to go down with a UCL injury that will result in Tommy John surgery as well. In other words, their "new" franchise pitcher is out for a year, while their previous franchise candidate will be more than 18 months removed from the surgery by opening day.

This is Jordan Zimmerman's chance to take the rotation anchor role and run with it. 

I'll be watching you, Jordan—and I expect you will be up to the task.

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